Microsoft APP-V and Citrix XenDesktop – Better Together?

When you think about Desktop Virtualization you will also think about Application Virtualization. This blog post will analyze whether if Microsoft App-V is a good partner for Citrix XenDesktop.
App-V and XenDesktop - better together?
Why this product combination? Well, I think, at the moment these products are both top products in their category. What if we combine these products, keeping in mind the latest release of App-V (4.6) and the upcoming release for XenApp (6)? Will this combination contribute to a better solution?


First I will give a short overview of each product and after that I will describe the combination of both products.

Citrix XenDesktop


Citrix XenDesktop is a desktop virtualization (including VDI) solution that delivers a complete Windows desktop experience as an on-demand service to any user, anywhere. Whether users are task workers, knowledge workers or mobile workers, XenDesktop can quickly and securely deliver individual applications or complete desktops while providing a high-definition user experience. The main difference with VMware View is that Citrix is focusing on delivering the application. And if you need a desktop for that, you will get that desktop also. Where VMware is focusing on delivering the desktop and of course you can run applications in that desktop. So, if you only need to deliver desktops VMware View could fit in your need. But if you need applications delivered in any circumstance, Citrix XenDesktop is your way to go. XenDesktop has an open architecture which means you can use (your existing?) Hyper-V, VMware or XenServer hypervisor infrastructure.

What does Citrix XenDesktop add over Microsoft VDI suite? Microsoft also has a VDI solution and with Windows Server 2008 R2 also a connection broker, but this is based on RDP. While RDP has made several improvements it is not the same as ICA with HDX technology. When Microsoft adds the Calista technology this might change. Next to that, XenDesktop offers a lot more features (depending in the edition) like Provisioning via single image, Single Sign On and Secure Remote Access.


Microsoft Application Virtualization (App-V)


Microsoft Application Virtualization (MS App-V) platform allows applications to be deployed in real-time to any client from a central location. It removes the need for local installation of the applications. Instead, only the App-v client needs to be installed on the client machines. All application data is permanently stored on the virtual application server. Whichever software is needed is either streamed or locally cached from the application server on demand and run locally. The App-V stack sandboxes the execution environment so that the application does not make changes to the client itself (OS File System and/or Registry). App-V applications are also sandboxed from each other, so that different versions of the same application can be run under App-V concurrently. This approach enables any application to be delivered without making any changes to its code. The current available version is App-V 4.6.


What does Microsoft App-V add over Citrix Streaming Applications? Citrix also has an application virtualization solution called Citrix Application Streaming, when using the full infrastructure App-V solution you will have better management options. Next to that you will benefit from the shared cache feature of App-V 4.6 and this can be important in your hosted desktop environment. Thinking about virtualizing the new Office 2010? App-V 4.6 will give you an easier way to accomplish this. Also App-V has a larger community, a lot of knowledge is available online.


App-v and XenDesktop


Technically it isn’t a major step. If you started your Xendesktop project already, you could easily fit in App-V. It is possible to both use App-V and Citrix Application Streaming. You will get more features, but do you need them? Well, as always, it depends. When you build your business case, take into account the shared cache feature for your storage and the additional features you get with XenDesktop. In most of the desktop virtualization projects user satisfaction is an important part (read: display protocol). When you find out XenDesktop is the way to go, what are the additional costs for App-V? App-V client licenses for RDS (and thus XenApp) are already part of the RDS-CAL, so no additional investment needed. For the desktop, you need Software Assurance. You probably already have SA for your VECD licenses. On the server side you need one or more App-V servers (depending on your organizations size and if you choose to use the full infrastructure model). Depending on your Microsoft license agreement you may need some additional server licenses.


The combination of App-V and XenDesktop (and XenApp 6) will give a very complete desktop virtualization solution. So, it is not a big surprise Microsoft and Citrix are teaming together on this.


When combining App-V and XenDesktop you will have the best of both worlds. Citrix already started to adopt App-V as an Application Virtualization solution in their products. The Citrix Receiver has now App-V support, which means you could push the App-V client as a plug-in for Citrix Receiver. Next to that, with XenApp 6 it will even get easier to publish App-V applications and with Dazzle it is possible to build a nice Self Service portal for App-V applications also. Citrix doesn’t “sell” Citrix Application Streaming as a separate product, therefore it will not harm their business.


Microsoft can benefit by offering a desktop virtualization solution which can compete with VMware. This will give Microsoft some time to develop on RDP (maybe some announcements later this week?).


Conclusion


To answer the question: Microsoft App-V and Citrix XenDesktop – better together? I must say, yes! At this moment I think Microsoft needs Citrix more to offer a great solution than vice versa, but this will probably change when Microsoft adds the Calista technology to RDP. To my opinion, one part is missing; Personalization…..but there we have RES PowerFuse or AppSense for.

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